Bug hunting, wood cutting, mud play and den building may not sound like typical school activities, but for the lucky students at Lobethal Lutheran Primary School it’s all in a day’s work. Outdoor play and learning in nature have been built into an innovative forest school model called Beyond that has seen Lobethal Lutheran Primary recognised as a 5 Star Innovative School 2021 award winner.
“After the devastating Lobethal bushfires we were searching for a way to reconnect students with nature, and nurture positive relationships with the outdoors,” says school principal Steph Kriewaldt.
“Beyond encourages the development of children’s emotional and physical development through outdoor play, activities and exploration in a bushland environment.”
Once a week students go beyond the classroom and spend a day off-site, in a forest glen at Spring Head Lutheran Church. The day begins around a summit fire, where learners are grounded with the environment, then a shared lunch is planned. Students undertake everything from chopping and gathering wood, lighting fires, preparing ingredients and cooking the meal. They also have access to ‘forest skills pods’ where they can learn life skills such as woodcraft, knot-tying, natural flora and fauna identification and more.
Inspired by the Danish forest school concept, the program aims to give students tasks that are challenging but achievable, while linked to the Australian curriculum.
“There are so many benefits for our learners at Beyond,” says Steph. “The tricky experiences in the program are fundamental to the ideals of presenting new challenges, which supports our learners to discover their potential.”
Steph says she’s seen significant positive effects in students since beginning the program, including improved resilience, self-confidence, initiative and creativity. She also expressed her appreciation for the congregation at Spring Head Church for their fellowship in sharing their unique outdoor space with the school.
“It has been amazing to see our learners interacting with the space,” she says. “Seeing them in nature and with all the good things God has made for us, watching the kids explore, experiment and engage in nature, communing with God through his natural creation, is very special.”
Photo courtesy Lobethan Lutheran School
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